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Dreams That Come True – Design Fabric x HDFC Life

Cover Story 07 Nov

As part of Design Fabric’s collaboration with HDFC Life, we interviewed eight artists – and invited photographer Ashish Shah to shoot their portraits – in an attempt to get a peek into the story behind achieving their dreams.

  • Priyanka Bose Actor Social Activist 2
  • Payal Khandwala Fashion Designer 2
  • Sapan Verma Comedian 2
  • Sahiba Madan Architect Kalakari Haath 1

We’ve all grown up with dreams. And over the years – for some, even weeks – we swung freely like pendulums from one dream to the next. Our minds charting out great plans and even greater adventures for our adult selves. While our visions of our future, and ourselves, changed, what remained constant was the power and magic of our dreams. A magic that remains personal to us.

Our dreams shape our stories and our stories celebrate our journeys. Everyone’s journey is unique; but what unites these stories is the knowing that the path you’ve chosen is the right one. The understanding that whatever the goals, one has to work relentlessly and overcome many hurdles to make it big today. From taking loans to borrowing money from parents and saving up from freelance gigs, as an artist it is a constant battle to generate funds.

For Design Fabric’s collaboration with HDFC Life, we interviewed 8 individuals who unanimously agreed that they’re in a constant process of achieving their dreams.  

  • Ashish 14 09 17629248

Priyanka Bose

Actor, 'Lion' & 'Gangor'

I was really dispassionate about money. I came from so much strife as a young adolescent, that money was never the focus. I used to live day to day at a time, did ok for myself, and I started working since I was 15, but it was only that.

When I decided to ride this wave in Bombay, I wasn't fully convinced if I wanted work as an actor, because I knew what the struggle would be like. I have slept in my car for 5 nights, and done auditions in the day, lunches at friends, but never asked for anything till I thought I was going to die hungry. Now, I am way more put together when it comes to money. It is a necessary evil that I am learning to accept.

As a child I was really meek and introverted, and had my own orbit. My dreams were simple. Can I climb that tree? How far will I go? Sridevi and Charlie Chaplin inspired me. I always wanted to perform, either on stage or films. And always wanted to do what is right. I am an adult now. Am I living my dream? Yes. Do I still climb that tree? Oh yes! Am I an actor and human relentlessly striving to work with my flaws? Yes. Do I want more as an artist? Yes. Am I still introverted? Yes. But ask me the truth, and I will tell you everything without a single filter.

My dreams haven’t all come true yet. Then, something like a 'LION' happens and it makes me believe that it’s possible, that if I just trust my inner self, it’ll all fall into place. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever conceive that a film I’ll do will be in ‘The Best Film’ category at the Oscars. I believe more now. It means something to have this energy to do better and want more for myself. I am ambitious as a character, because I only depend on myself.  So I’m not chasing; I am conceiving, preserving, visualising and connecting with my inner self way more than I ever have before. I hate the word ‘journey’. I have no sense of nostalgia or a method that has got me where I am. I am still not the person, I envision to be. But I am a daily dreamer, and sometimes it’s as simple as nailing an apple pie.

  • Sapan Verma Comedian 1

Sapan Verma

Stand-up Comedian, East India Comedy

As a child, I wanted to have enough friends. As a teenager, I enjoyed filmmaking, but it seemed like a distant dream given I wasn’t in Bombay. As an adult, I just wanted to do something in the writing and humour space. So I tried everything – copywriting, scriptwriting, writing for television. When I took up stand-up, it just worked, because I was writing for myself and talking about things I wanted to talk about.

I think if you want to do something on your own or start something different you have to work really, really hard. What I've realised after doing this for almost a decade is that the struggle will always be there. It doesn't end once you reach a particular point in your life because the goals and the demands only get bigger and more challenging. The other thing I’ve realised is that you have to always have savings and be prepared because as a freelancer, clients will hound you during the project, but the minute it’s over they are either ‘in a meeting’ or the ‘accounts department is on leave’ or ‘sir your cheque is ready only but signing is left and it's post dated to December 2037’.

I love what I do, but I have not accomplished all my dreams. When I tried standup, it instinctively felt better than anything I'd done before, so I went ahead and stuck with it. We formed East India Comedy five years ago, and now thanks to that, I get to do standup, direct videos, sing parody songs, write for the biggest stars in the country and just be what I want to be.

  • Payal Khandwala Fashion Designer 2

Payal Khandwala

Painter & Clothes Maker

I’ve always loved painting, and as a child I loved making little dresses for my dolls. As an adult I studied both Fine Art and Fashion. My parents were always extremely supportive of my choices. My mother painted and sewed my clothes when I was a child, as did my grandmother for my mother. So in a way it was in my DNA and they were very perceptive about this. I am deeply grateful that they recognised this because knowing I had their support allowed me the time to realize my dreams without compromising my vision.

My parents even funded my education in New York City, that was not cheap. So I really tried my best to not take advantage of it and tried to sustain myself. However, in the end that didn’t allow me to pursue my art and I moved back to India where I was sure I could pursue my passion without the stress of trying to make ends meet.

My journey was very organic. I don’t ever remember having an active dream of becoming a designer or an artist, but it helps to visualize your dream sometimes. It also helps to be realistic, and be your best critic and competitor. Having a point of view that is considered and authentic will be your biggest differentiator. And as for money, the truth is, in the real world it goes a long way. But it is not impossible without it, although it might take a bit longer.

I’ve never been a planner, not even now, but I ended up pursuing both my passions. The journey to me has always been more important than the end product. If you enjoy the road then the destination is incidental. What helped mine was that I did it with sincerity and a sense of humour.

  • Ashish 14 09 17629472

Harshvardhan Kadam

Visual Artist, Inkbrushnme Studios

I've been drawing professionally for a little more than a decade. I didn't even realize that so much time had already passed by. Yes, it did take a toll on my personal life, but I always made a choice. The choice was simple, whether to have a normal life or shape an extraordinary one. As a child I used to draw tracks on the entire floor and take my hot wheels across whatever I had scribbled. I wanted to build things and now, I'm metaphorically breaking things that are built. This breaking of things is to add character to urban geography and make cities more colourful and optimistic environments.

My dreams were my super cars. I had to fuel them myself as I had to drive them on my own. So I knew exactly how I needed to work, earn and be passionate. I understand that money fuels dreams and is an important life source but I’ve never borrowed money. In my case, I used my money in manifesting my passion projects rather than building assets. Those projects became my assets eventually.

Dreams are to be lived, not chased. For me, every living moment is me living my dream. The moment can't be better or worse than this, so being able to live as good as 100 percent is a dream come true. What I've always strived for is being maximum and expansive with my practice. From drawing graphic novels to conceiving larger than life artworks, the expanse of imagination has been the only key. Finally, what is the point of any dream if you're not aware enough to observe life as it unfolds and shapes your consciousness?

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Saba Azad

Actor & Musician, Madboy/Mink 

My dream as a child was simply to be happy. And my source of happiness changed every week. Over the years, my dream still remains the same, which is to stay happy and continue doing what I love. Since I was born into a family that was involved in theatre and extensively explored music, I knew very early on that I wanted to be in the arts; in what capacity I hadn't quite figured out initially, so I kept doing what I enjoyed and soon things became clear that it wasn't one thing that gave me joy. There were many, and I intended to keep them all going.

Because my family was so heavily invested in the arts, the thought of me being a dancer, an actor or a musician was almost expected. As for my parents, they’ve both done as they pleased with their lives and encouraged both their children to do just as their hearts desired. So convincing them about my chosen path wasn’t difficult at all. They are both academicians, so they wanted us to have our basic education sorted; but apart from that no pressure was put at all.

I feel like I’ve reached where I am by constantly chasing what I love to do, over money and material gain. That said, in the world of performing arts, I feel like money is important in the sense that it grants you the luxury to be discerning; the lack of which would mean you end up doing work with which you may or may not agree entirely. Aesthetically speaking, money doesn't hurt but it's not the route to success.

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Shamir Reuben

Spoken Word Performer, Kommune

From childhood to now, the only constant as far as my dreams are concerned is that I’ve always been easily fascinated. As a kid, that meant trading one dream for another; as an adult, I figured that I saw beauty in a lot of things, so maybe all I wanted to do was spend my time getting other people to see it.

The essence of what I am as a person or what I do as an artist, is to do the simple things with ruthless efficiency. I love the Japanese concept of Shokunin spirit; the mastery of one's art by doing the most mundane of tasks like your life depended on it. Even today, I don’t know if I’ve done enough or if I deserve whatever I have today, because just a year ago things were so unbelievably different. We started Storytelling gigs on Saturday nights; and I never, in my wildest dreams, believed someone would pay to watch an ordinary person talk on stage. I started, little by little. A year later, I look at a host of first timers, ordinary people who went on stage because of us and said that it was an experience they wouldn't ever forget. If that isn't a dream, I don't know what is.

How have I reached this far? I like to believe it's because I'm perennially scared and hungry. I am constantly petrified of losing this dream of mine so I work twice as hard to keep it. And I guess what I also want to say is, as an artist, you have to make peace with the fact that there's often very little pay off on the monumental efforts you put into your work. You just have to keep doing what you love, over and over again, until the world starts to feel the way you do.

  • Ashish 13 09 17629155

Naina Mansukhani

Model, Nike Athlete & Pacer for Nike Run Club

As a child and as an adult my dreams have been wild and limitless. Growing up, I’d wake up each day wanting to be a rockstar, an astronaut, a dance, a doctor, a painter and even Cinderella and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. When I became an adult, the madness kept going. I represented the city and state in athletics, began my association with Nike Running India, studied economics, then law,  after which, I left job my as a lawyer and began modelling and now I own a fitness company called the Bride Boot Camp that makes young brides fit before their wedding.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to take loans or borrow money simply because I came up with a business plan that would allow me to invest in the business only after I made the money. I planned to use digital media to set up and build content. I had collaborations and I basically set up a business on barter. What I’m trying to say is that an idea is what is priceless. Don’t be limited by logic.

I think quitting my job as a lawyer was a shocker to my family and friends. I was fresh out of law school, had a well coveted job and was making a killing but decided to move past it. I thought to myself that this would either be the best or worst decision I have ever made but I’d learn a lot about myself and have an awesome time either way. I believe that all that you ever want is achievable if you come up with a reasonable plan that you work on with a passion as a drive. The fear of rejection is, in my opinion, the biggest cause for failure.

In my life, I’ve reached where I am because I dream big and always go for the best. I make it a point to go after what I want even if it seems crazy. What I’ve realised and learnt over the years is that the important thing is Gratitude. We take so much for granted – the ability to walk, the ability to talk etc. the things that are totally overlooked because we get so caught up in the rat race. Having gratitude has allowed me to see how amazing my life already is. I have a mindset of abundance and that brings me so much happiness.

  • Sahiba Madan Architect Kalakari Haath 2

Sahiba Madan

Architect & Product Designer, Kalakaari Haath

Dreams are very subjective to where you are in life.

All I remember of myself from childhood is a kid who never stopped drawing. I don’t think I ever had one particular dream, but I knew I loved to draw. I think the progression of my interest from initially drawing to now designing has been quite linear. With Kalakaari Haath, I’m trying to explore how to formally translate my aesthetic sense into intent and design language. It is an exploration of architecture, design and illustration today. The designs are inspired from traditional handicrafts of India among many other things. Traditional craftsmen are principal carriers of the body of skills and knowledge required to use traditional materials and technologies. In a context of today, where individual scopes are so well defined in building cultures, the craftsmen are often looked at as an execution team, completely independent of design. So my dream is to reconfigure the role of the architect and the craftsmen in every project. I also dream to have my own retail store/workshop and work towards setting up a full time design studio., where I can have products and craft skills on display.

As far as achieving one’s dreams is concerned, I completely believe that you have to work hard. One thing that I feel we lack, self included, as a generation, is consistency. A sense of discipline and method helps you achieve what you want.

This story has been sponsored by HDFC Life

Curated and Produced by Design Fabric